Monday, February 25, 2013

Travel Bug

So after not going anywhere for our 1st 6 months here, my travel schedule has exploded. Since the beginning of the year we've gone to Palawan and Donsol locally, and I did 2 weeks in Hawaii. Next month I'm headed on TDY to Japan, then we're going on family vacation with my little sister & her family in Vietnam. Then we're going to Baguio (for fun and not for work this time!) and Guam before we head back to Hawaii for our R&R in June. And that's just the first half of the year! It only took me three weeks to finally catch up on my e-mail after my trip to Hawaii, so I think I'll have a full time job just keeping on top of my e-mail.

In other news, Husband and I are battling back against the inertia of Manila. The traffic here is so, so bad that people tend to get entrenched in their neighborhoods. It's hard to make plans, play dates, or any kind of dates with other people because it requires actually leaving your house and facing the Manila roads. But, we've recognized that we're are sick and tired of being trapped, and the lack of human interaction is wearing us down. So this weekend Husband held a poker night and I went out for ladies night on the town (my girl T and I struggled to stay out past 1am, but whatevs!). Then on Sunday we had three other families over for a big cookout and swim fest. It was a lot of fun to spend the day just hanging out with people whose company we enjoy, and the kids swam their butts off. I think that pool saw more action in one day then its seen since we moved in! The bummer is that two of the three families, along with a few other good friends, are all getting ready to PCS this summer *sigh*. Such is life in the FS, as soon as you make friends one or the both of you are headed off to new adventures elsewhere. The good news is that you always have friends all over world!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Clean Air & Whale Sharks

Oh. My. God. Has it really been so long since I posted?? In a nutshell, went to Hawaii for 2 weeks to do my annual military training - so freaking awesome being back in the US where people follow traffic laws and you can breathe the clean air. Plus, cherries! Yum! I think I ate a few pounds while I was there. The cleaning ladies in my hotel room must have thought I had some kind of weird cherry pit fetish. My orders came super late (I mean they arrived on a Friday and I left of a Saturday kind of late), so I ended up in one of the downtown Waikiki mega hotels, which would have been great if I was there to relax, but was kind of annoying when you're commuting over to Pearl Harbor (about an hour each way, boo!). Still, an hour commute in Hawaii is still infinitely more pleasurable that being in the car for five minutes in Manila. Also, I learned that it takes approximately 3 days for your sinuses to stuff back up upon return to the Manila pollution - so I can't say I haven't learned anything here!

Besides the chance to go back to work I love (outside the politics, which is why I left it in the first place) and the chance to wear my uniform again, I was also able to tack on a few extra days to visit a very old and very dear friend who I hadn't seen in almost 15 years. M was one of my high school bff's and my roommate before I joined the military (in fact, we share matching tattoos!). I never imagined we would fall out of touch, but I suppose that's what happens when life intervenes. Anyway, I got to hang with her and her moms (who was like a 2nd mom to me - I can't count the number of times she stitched me up when I didn't have health insurance!) and M's son, who I had never met before. It was awesome.

Even better? Coming home to almost 1,000 emails! Okay, just kidding about that last part (the enjoyment that is, not the actual number, which was pretty damn close and I am still working my way through them all!). Actually, this last weekend was a long one for us federal workers, so we took advantage of the CLO* trip to Donsol where we swam with whale sharks in one of the most intense and awe inspiring experiences of my life. I knew this would be a trip I enjoyed, but I had no idea how much it would affect me. It was really a life changing experience to be so close to these incredible animals. On our first day, C and I were one of only two groups of swimmers to actually see a whale shark. Our guide took us out on the banka and as soon as they sight one they start screaming at you to JUMP! JUMP! JUMP! I slipped out of the boat and looked through my goggles - right in front of my face, not two feet away from me was the immense mouth of the biggest freaking thing I have ever seen.   The whale sharks, of course, do not give a crap that someone of people-size has suddenly dropped into their orbit, so he continued swimming along right underneath me. I was able to swim over top of him for a couple hundred yards just sort of hanging out in his shadow. And since no other boats were near us, it was just me and the whale shark. It was so exhilarating! Of course, once we got back to shore we found out that almost no one else had gotten to see one all day, which made me feel kind of guilty. However, the following day we were in the water no less than 10 times (9 sightings)! Everyone in our group got at least one good look at a whale shark, which made me feel a whole lot better after the disappointment of the previous day! Our friend R is an excellent underwater photographer and got some really amazing shots of our experience (which I have stolen off of his facebook and shared here because my photos look like ass**).

*Community Liaison Office
**In my defense, that shit is hard!